They had moved from Southern California to Boston, a city still racist and classist to its core. Boston: parsimonious, tight-lipped, closed in and begrudging. California had ocean and mountains and reckless spending habits. And in that western sunshine he had celebrated his freedom with too many other women. She just longed for four seasons and manners.
This time he was defensive. He looked miserable and angry as he confessed. Had she really been surprised? Was he still so libidinous? She noticed the black stubble, the emerging double chin. When had he gained so much weight? She had kept her slim, generous figure. But maybe it was all a little droopy now? In Boston unstyle, her clothes were loose and concealed more than flattered.
But had she always clung to their vows? She had since the move. What was sexy in a city that still saw itself as the City on the Hill? The ‘Hub’? She had tolerated his affairs in the past but she no longer wanted to. When was the search for love over? Certainly by now. She felt deflated. Why should some other woman get sex and adoration but not the problems that came with this man? Her husband. Maybe this time she would lose him. The secure bulk of him. Did he share more of himself with the other woman than with her? But could she still stand to listen to him?
They shared a past and obligations. In Boston she saw how poorly he fit in. His bluster embarrassed her. Was she attracted to him anymore? Did he believe her claim that she was no longer interested in sex? Was she? She was weary of his touch. He was too aggressive, too fat, too loud. When had she stopped pretending? She knew that even as a newcomer she fit in better than he. But would someone want to marry her? Didn’t the world have enough forty year old women who had been left for a younger model? How could she join their sad ranks? What about the kids?. Friendship, kids, a shared life. Shouldn’t that be enough? Why did she have to worry about other women ? The kids were grownish. Why couldn’t she just nourish her own possibilities? She could get him back again. But she was tired. Of trying or of him?
And then what happened when the art instructor paused a moment too long at her easel? Did his arm, with its soft blond hairs pause a bit on her back? His blue eyes were so beautiful. Why did men get long lashes? She thought about her own son and pulled back, busying herself with the paints. When she looked at him two minutes later, was he staring? The excitement in her stomach was one she had long thought dead. Should she go with him when he casually suggested coffee? And then the exchange of life histories, too excited to concentrate on the questions or the answers. They walked hand and hand to his crowded studio. They pretended it was to see the art.
They took off their clothes slowly, just watching each other. She lost her self consciousness. The touch was exquisite. The artist was thin, sinewy, muscled. She loved to trace his biceps, his shoulders. His soft voice with its slight Boston accent. With him, she could go anywhere and not stand out. They simply watched each other.
And after, did her husband sense her disinterest in his affairs? Should she care? She thought only of the artist, and as she did so, her stomach tingled again. And again. Slowly, she became the artist’s muse. He did not seem to tire of her full breasts and long shapely legs. She grew out her black hair to please him. Did he inspire her own art? They made love again and again. Could she even return to mere friendship?